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BIGGER BUSES TO HIT THE ORANGE LINE SIXTY-FIVE-FOOT-LONG VEHICLES TO ALLOW FOR ADDITIONAL RIDERS ON CROWDED ROUTE.

Byline: SUE DOYLE Staff Writer

A futuristic, 65-foot bus will hit the road this summer on the Orange Line as MTA officials try to provide more room for current riders and entice others to get on board.

With five extra feet, the megasize bus can hold at least nine more seated passengers and up to five more standing in the aisle than the 60-foot buses shuttling residents today from North Hollywood to Woodland Hills.

The extra-long bus could help meet the soaring demand for the 14-mile Orange Line, where ridership is nearing its capacity of 22,000 weekly riders -- more than the Gold Line, said Richard Hunt, San Fernando Valley Service Sector general manager.

Just over a year in service, the Orange Line's ridership has surprised Metropolitan Transportation Authority officials who this month began running more buses during peak hours.

``We anticipated it sometime in the future, but we certainly didn't anticipate that we'd have such ridership this soon,'' Hunt said.

For one year, MTA officials will watch how the 65-foot bus performs on the route. If it handles well, the extra-long bus could slowly replace the 60-footers hauling commuters on the Orange Line today, Hunt said.

Buses are replaced as they age and hit certain mileages. Buses on the Orange Line last year averaged 60,000 miles compared with the traditional 40-foot buses trekking across the city that annually rack up an average 43,000 miles, Hunt said.

But first the MTA will have to push for legislation to use the extra-long bus on the Orange Line, since the state's vehicle code restricts transit buses to 60-feet in length.

The transit agency received a special permit this week from CalTrans to test out the 65-foot bus.

In addition, the MTA will also look at bringing 80-foot buses to the Orange Line. The intent is to mimic rail service as much as possible.

The MTA board on Thursday approved the $100,000 to extend the bus by five feet. The average cost of the MTA's 60-foot bus is $634,000.

As interest in the Orange Line grows, ridership on all MTA bus lines increased by nearly 5 percent in 2006 and follows a trend across the country, according to the American Public Transportation Association, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit agency that represents public transportation agencies.

Nationwide, public transportation use increased nearly 3 percent last year, spurred by higher gas prices, which persuaded many drivers they should leave their cars in the garage.

``Sometimes the hardest thing to do is to start a new habit,'' Miller said. ``But once you start a new habit like public transportation, and you find that it's convenient and affordable and helps you de-stress, you want to stay with it.''

sue.doyle@dailynews.com

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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jan 26, 2007
Words:461
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